loan 100% online, with no face-to-face contact or paper involved. The second project, i-KONTO (e-ACCOUNT), enables customers to open a current ac-count online.

BNP Paribas Bank Polska also signed a partnership with the Polish PAY-U platform for the implementation of an innovative secure payment system based on an inter-face between PAY-U and the customer s bank account. A customer s online pay-ments can be debited directly from his/her bank account.

Jean-Michel Duverger, who worked on rolling out these projects, underlines just how digitally advanced the Polish market already was at that time: We were struck by the maturity of the Polish market. There are a lot of players in Poland, including startups working both in the country and from the country. In addition, Poland has the largest number of point-of-sale termi-nals supporting contactless payments in Europe.

Valérie Eymard, Head of Digital, Distribu- tion and Innovation at BNP Paribas Interna-tional Retail Banking, recalls the achievements of the BNP Paribas and then BGZ BNP Paribas teams: Within 2 years, working in a highly competitive environ-ment, with Polish customers who were remarkably digitally mature, the teams were able to develop in record time, with efficient coordination and following clear strategic guidelines, a high-performance platform both in terms of the banking product and service range and the payment facilities provided. I remember well the motto coined to describe the strategy: Online but not alone !

business and on working closely with a number of Polish companies in the strategically important oil, gas, and electricity sectors.

Accordingly the bank drew up a Business Development Plan (KIERUNEK 2015 Cap 2015 ) based on a number of key priorities: Consumer finance was to be revamped, with a new Personal Finance Inside platform based on three pillars Granting, Collection, Litigation and two key markets, namely consumer credit via branch counters and car loans. The unique aspect of the strategy adopted was that these loans were provided at very attractive rates, coupled with cross- selling of an active current account aimed at low-risk customers. Retail customers would be offered a multichannel i.e. internet, branch and call centre access service. In addition, a high-performance Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool was rolled out. The bank decided on a strategy to win over corporate customers, addressing both the local subsidiaries of multinational firms and local small and medium-sized businesses, combined with a strong drive to step up sales of financial products and services including leasing and factoring and in transactional products, in particular cash management.

However, fierce competition in an overbanked market, spearheaded by some very aggres- sive players, delayed the hoped-for financial pickup. From end-2011 onwards the Bank was forced to implement a cost reduction programme, plus a sizeable workforce down- sizing plan. A fresh recapitalisation, amounting to PLN 250 million, was also required in 2012.

Meanwhile regulatory requirements edicted by the Polish Banking Commission led BNP Paribas Polska to reactivate its listing on the Warsaw stock exchange, which had lain dormant since 2009, and in June 2014 a capital increase of around PLN 220 million, subscribed by institutional investors, enabled the Bank to ensure that 15% of its shares were floating publicly, as required by the Banking Commission.

As BNP Paribas Polska approached the merger with BGZ in 2015, the Bank had managed to clean up its portfolio, restore commercial dynamism, and return the business to profit- ability.

VIEW FROM THE BELGIAN SIDE: GÉNÉRALE DE BANQUE ACQUIRES PIERWSZY POLSKO-AMERYKANSSKI BANK (PPAB)

In 1996 Générale de Banque started planning to set up in Poland as its main competitors in Belgium Kredietbank and BBL had done.

In order to identify a suitable takeover candidate, Générale de Banque approached mer- chant bank NN. Rothschild & Sons Ltd, which called on the services of another merchant

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